Thursday, May 28, 2009
Last night completed a circle for me. President Obama (huzzah!) was in Beverly Hills for a fundraiser for the DNC, and a lot of grassroots volunteers got to go, both as a way to thank them and as a way to fill empty seats. Fundraising these days is a bitch, as you might imagine, but I won't go into that now. The great thing is that so many people got to see, up close and personal, the flesh and blood embodiment of all of those hours phoning strangers in outlying states, walking precincts in boiling temperatures in the Nevada desert, redeye from inputting data into the wee hours, tabling at every event possible, registering voters everywhere, and god knows what else...those volunteers, the backbone of the campaign, got to see Barack Obama, no longer Candidate Obama, but the very real PRESIDENT Obama. What a ride!
The circle for me began on February 20, 2007, my first volunteer gig at Rancho Park right after Obama declared his candidacy...I got to shake his hand then. Last night, I got to shake his hand again, now as President. My certainty, from Day One, that he would be President was validated, sealed and delivered. It was a transcendent moment, as it was with every successful campaign moment along the way. He gave the usual political pep talk about his administration and how much he had accomplished in just four months, ticking them off one by one, and then he said...which I absolutely loved..."You ain't seen nothing yet!" implying that he had just scratched the surface of his agenda. Thrilling, eh? But, I have to say, the poor man looked tired...when 'we' shook hands, I really wanted to say, "Get some rest, man. Take a nap." but I just said, "Thank you, Mr. President." He wouldn't have heard me anyway above the din.
Ok, back down to earth, he didn't actually look at me either time we squeezed fingers as he floated by to press the flesh of insistent hands out-stretched to touch him, and I wondered if his Secret Service detail carried hand sanitizer for him. You know, swine flu, I mean H1N1, and all. And, hey, remember when George Bush used sanitizer after shaking Obama's hand...and then offered him some? How easily I digress. But it was a wonderful moment. Dreamlike.
The entertainment was stellar. Jennifer Hudson sang with the Crenshaw High School Choir and they were fabulous together, singing, Bridge Over Troubled Water and I forget the other song. And Earth Wind and Fire, just the three front men, really got the audience rocking. The back up band was fab. Also performing, was a talented ten year old flamenco guitar player, Ricardo (damn, can't remember his last name and for some reason I didn't get a picture), whose poise and dexterity astonished the crowd. Later in the evening, when he and his dad were leaving the hotel, we learned more about this amazing kid...he is totally home schooled, never had a tv or a computer, is an aspiring botanist, learning to speak Spanish, built his own pond on the family property, plays a variety of music genres, has a claptrap memory and belies the rubric that home schooled kids aren't properly socialized. He keeps up with the news by reading newspapers from around the world that his father downloads and prints out for him every day. Listening to it all, I suddenly felt like a miserably inadequate mother. Why hadn't I thought about no tv? Moved to the country to get away from urban temptations? Planted a sustainable garden? Taught them Urdu and the sitar? The fact that (I'm going to brag here, which I may have done before...so if you can't stand it, just skip to the next paragraph) my sons graduated from Harvard, Columbia and one's going to graduate school at Princeton, doesn't help to alleviate the thought that I could've, should've done more. God, I hope they forgive me.
All in all, it was a terrific evening, and being that a large grassroots contingent was there, there was lots of talk about how to move forward with OFA (Organizing for America), and brainstorming in general. There is a lot of restless activist energy out there waiting to be tapped in a concrete, strategic way. We just have to figure out the best way to engage it. ONWARD!